Nancy and Luke’s elopement at the Union Hall at Bar Marco wasn’t their first plan. It wasn’t even their second or third plan. But it ended up being the perfect plan for these two. After dealing with family tragedies, personal injuries, and of course the COVID pandemic, this crazy-in-love pair decided to forgo their original and subsequent backup wedding plans for a Monday afternoon self-uniting ceremony followed by tacos at an Airbnb with 14 of their closest friends and family. It was intimate, heartfelt, and it was all planned in less than a week. With a team of incredibly flexible vendors/wedding magicians including Julie James Design, Bongiorno Bella, Alterations by Netta, PrintTech, and Kaitlin Powell Photography, Nancy and Luke were still able to have all of the elements of a big, traditional celebration that mattered to them, like show-stopping florals and epic photos. Once you read their full story below, we guarantee you’re going to fall in love with this couple just as much as we did, and you’ll appreciate this feature all the more. This is a good one, folks.
About the Couple
Luke and I have a magical love story; we met on a super romantic dating app (Tinder!) and dated for about a year – 11 months to be exact – and then he popped the question. We had a longish engagement as we had hoped to fix up our farmhouse and get married at home. Read on to how we got to plan D…
About the Wedding
We were (and still are) working tirelessly to fix up Luke’s family’s old farmhouse and we were set on a country outdoor wedding at the homestead. As someone who knew very well that it would be a logistical nightmare, I pushed my reasoning aside and decided it would be a good idea for sentimental purposes. My dad and Luke spent an entire summer excavating our property to make flat yards for ceremony chairs and a tent. We planted grass, spread straw (I learned how allergic I am to this) and were hopeful. Then the grass turned into weeds, our remodeling work got sidetracked (Note: Do not hire people from Craigslist. That sounds obvious, but I figured I’d restate that logic), and I came to terms: this is not a good idea for our sanity’s sake. So, I booked the most beautiful new venue – MuseumLab – and began working on plan B with a little over a year to still plan.
I made this choice to save us a lot of stress, but to say we’ve still had a tough time is an understatement. While working full-time jobs, renovating our farmhouse, and planning a wedding, life still had more challenges in store. We learned that Luke’s mom’s breast cancer returned after overcoming it twice and undergoing a double-mastectomy. She would be now be fighting a Stage 4 battle which couldn’t be won, only endured. One month into 2020, we lost Luke’s younger sister tragically. How much more could one family take?
Over the next couple of months, I think we were all looking forward to the positive distraction of our wedding celebration. I prepaid most of our vendors in full, trying to be mindful of my budget and not spend all of the earnings I made from selling my first home. Things were looking up…and then COVID hit. Yeah. One would think I could end with, enough said, but that wasn’t enough. We had our own plan C that we felt OK with. We decided to move our reception at MuseumLab to November 6 and I was feeling comforted by the fall vibes this would bring. As the pandemic continued, we discussed maybe we should have a small ceremony on our original date, to ensure Luke’s mom could witness it in good health and JUST IN CASE things were not cleared up by November. I started these micro-ceremony plans when we were hit with another curve ball.
I got a call from Luke’s dad on May 12. “Luke’s hurt and he won’t go to the hospital.” I rushed home and forced him to go to the ER. He was moving some brush with his tractor and while pulling on a tree branch, he heard a “pop” in his arm. His right bicep was torn. We learned on May 14 he would need surgery, which was bad news on its own, let alone with a $2,500 insurance deductible. We decided since our plans were pretty much wrecked, we might as well just get married to get him on my superior health plan. I called my parents, who were visiting my brother’s family in Michigan, and asked if they would be OK if we eloped for insurance purposes. My mom said, “Do what you need to do,” but I could tell it hurt.
As Allegheny County moved to the yellow phase I decided, I can do this – I can pull off a nice little wedding in time for Luke’s surgery scheduled for May 21.
Step 1: Find a Venue
We needed to tie the knot by Monday or Tuesday to give time for my insurance to pick up coverage for Luke, so I immediately started emailing and DM-ing venues on Thursday night to see if there was a chance they might host us. Since we just moved out of the red phase, there were a lot of uncertainties and grey areas, but I was blessed by what can only be the grace of God that my angel, Andrew, said yes to having us at the Union Hall at Bar Marco. It was Friday morning and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Step 2: Marriage License
This was, to my surprise, a piece of cake in Allegheny County. We filled out some paperwork online, went to the courthouse on Friday to turn in said paperwork, and I was able to pick up our license Monday morning. Bonus points for the little traffic and easy parking downtown during COVID (the only positive thing I can credit to COVID).
Step 3: Photography & Flowers
I reached out to Kaitlin Powell on Friday afternoon, who was booked for all of our wedding dates (June and November – she’s rolled with it all) and she agreed to come down on Monday for our wedding. What a blessing. She’s seriously the sweetest, so if you need a photographer, BOOK HER.
Florals were basically the most important wedding design feature to me. I was ready to invest a decent part of our original budget for our wedding florals so I was hell-bent that we’d have some flowers for our micro wedding. I called Julie James and was like, “I know this sounds nuts but we’re getting married on Monday. Any flowers that you could provide would be gratefully appreciated.” I was astonished at how un-phased she was by the underlying hysteria in my tone. She said, “Sure, we can do this.” And she sure did.
Step 4: Attire, Hair & Make Up
This was quite possibly the most difficult part of my rescheduling dilemma. I had just dropped my gown off at Alterations by Netta and thought there would be no chance in hell that she’d be able to have my gown ready. I sent her a Facebook message and she said, “No problem. You can pick it up on Sunday.” What?! Is this real life? These vendors are more like magicians. The Pittsburgh wedding community is like none other.
Over the weekend, I made daily trips to Ohio to get my nails done, shop for a suit for Luke (everything was still closed in PA), shop for a dress for my mom and Luke’s mom, find shoes for my dad and get a spray tan. I got up at 6 a.m. and was doing wedding things until midnight. It was exhausting. Luckily, our family friend is a bomb hairdresser and made a house call to highlight and cut my hair, and cut Luke’s and my mom’s when she got in Sunday evening from Michigan.
On my wedding day, the incredible Phylicia of Bongiorno Bella did my hair and makeup as well as my mom’s and MIL’s and she made us all look and feel like freakin’ celebrities. After months of not really doing my hair or makeup in quarantine, I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself IN THE BEST WAY.
Step 5: Officiant
Since we were doing a self-uniting marriage license we could technically have anyone marry us, but we chose a co-worker who is ordained online (not sure how legit that is) and is super-professional. I actually wrote the wedding script and thought I did a pretty decent job – it was personal, witty, and to the point.
Step 6: Entertainment
I wanted our little gathering to still feel special and nothing enhances an event like live music. I reached out to the Three Rivers String Quartet and Christina graciously accepted. Walking down the aisle to their beautiful rendition of “Can’t Help Falling In Love” was so remarkable.
Step 6: Reception
I quite honestly was not sure if I could pull this off. Restaurants were shut down, venues weren’t permitting dining, it was a mess. I managed to make something happen. I found a quaint Airbnb to book for myself to get ready in and for our modest guest list of like 14 to come to after. We ordered a Condado taco bar and had no shortage of our favorite microbrews. I changed out of my gown into a white denim J.Crew dress and Luke put on shorts with a draw string. It was not glamorous, but it was perfect.
Step 7: Desserts
My maid of honor, Maggie, ordered cookie trays from Oakmont Bakery (because let’s face it… it’s not a Pittsburgh wedding without a cookie table) and mom baked some of her buckeyes and cake balls Sunday night when she got home. I sort of blindly ordered a cake from Oakmont as well. This wasn’t something I cared too much about and with a lot of things to take care of and very little time, I didn’t dwell.
In Conclusion: What I learned
So you might be wondering, how did it all turn out? Would you have made the same decision again? In short: absolutely. I learned to let go of all of the details (like the pressed flower DIY sign that didn’t work out it – thanks PrintTech for making a substitute literally on our wedding day) and just enjoy the moment. I couldn’t have cared less about anything when I saw our closest friends and family and my husband-to-be at the end of the aisle. Things certainly didn’t look like how I envisioned them, but overall, it was beautiful and I am so pleased with the day we had.
While eloping isn’t for everyone and I encourage people to wait for the wedding of their dreams if they can, it was the right choice for us.
My absolute favorite moments of the day include walking down the aisle and seeing Luke after three days of non-stop errands and stress. The stunning florals that I got to see for the first time and the way Luke looked in his $70 suit from Burlington Coat Factory (literally there were no other options) was just EVERYTHING.
My second favorite moment was going to our Airbnb and taking off my gown and eating tacos. On our first date, we went out for tacos, so it was only fitting to have tacos on our wedding day, right? Also, I have no clue how I would have stayed in my gown for an entire formal reception. It felt so good to rip that thing off. I felt like those soccer players that tear off their jerseys after a victory…except I needed help and did it in a bathroom.